Lost Confucianism in Asia: South Korean Case

Oral intervention to be given by the Next Century Foundation at the 37th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on the 15th of March 2018. UPR Outcomes on the Republic of Korea.

Mr President. Human Rights in the Republic of Korea are often neglected because many think all is well in South Korea in light of the country’s economic affluence. However, according to the World Health Organization, South Korea has the second-highest suicide rate in the world as well as having the highest suicide rate for any OECD member state.

This is due to the significant level of suicide among our senior citizens, which is the major contributing factor to South Korea’s overall suicide rate. With the population among the elderly increasing, the NCF calls for urgent attention to be paid to the situation of our elderly in South Korea.

South Korea’s elderly are suffering from poverty and income inequality due to the insufficient pension system and poor welfare system. Poverty rate among the elderly reached 61.7% in 2015, the highest for any OECD country, and yet, there is still no adequate system to provide help for people as they prepare for their lives post-retirement. Public social expenditure is the second lowest among the OECD countries.

Mr President, elderly poverty is an urgent social problem in South Korea. A lot of the elderly are suffering from lack of adequate sanitation, heating, lighting and food, exposing them to a wide range of hazards. Some of them choose to suicide, and some even fall prey to criminal activities such as prostitution.

South Korea is known for its rapid economic growth and has been held up as an economic model for other developing countries. However, there is a serious gap between the nation’s exemplary economic development and the poor pension and welfare systems for the elderly. The Next Century Foundation suggests that immediate attention be paid to this situation by the UN and calls for systematic reform in South Korea. Thank you.